How do you distinguish your products or services from the competition? How you do this could decide how successful you are in your business. Almost everything is commoditized now. No matter what you do, there are probably 100 other people doing the same thing. So differentiation is more important now than ever before because they have more choices. In today’s world, it takes more than price, product and placement (The 3 P’s). Something has to make them choose you versus your competitor.

We live in an over communicated society. There is so much noise out there. It is estimated we are exposed to over 3,000 messages every day. Radio, television, billboards, newspapers, and magazines all want our attention. Then add all the online media and advertising on top of that, and you can see it’s easy to get lost in the mix to the point nobody even knows you exist.

To break through the noise, something has to fire an emotional trigger in your prospective client that creates the emotional connection that is essential for you to do business with them. How you differentiate your business could be a key component in creating that emotional connection.

What is your target market’s perception of you and your business?

Think about how they view you in relation to your competition. Can you can clearly articulate how you are different. Sometimes your prospect’s reluctance to work with you is simply a matter of them not yet being clear on what you do and what makes you better or different from your competitor. You must have the ability to communicate this to your target market.

Ten rules for differentiating you and your business from the competition:

1. Become a market specialist.

Be known for something. Identify the one thing in your business you do better than anyone else. You probably have several things you do well in your business, but what is the one thing you want to be known for? Find what you do best, and do a lot of that. This is the best way to serve your clients. The best way to become a market specialist and trusted advisor in your industry is to consistently produce valuable content. Share your knowledge through blog posts, articles, video, social media, email, and on your website.

2. Reposition the competition.

Put the competition in a different light without actually saying anything bad about the other product or service. A few years ago, Tylenol repositioned aspirin by saying Tylenol doesn’t cause stomach upset. M&M’s are another example – “The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” You could also reposition the competition by sharing your unique story, experiences, and background. For example, I have 20 years of experience in the technology field along with a strong sales and marketing background. So if someone is interested in developing their online presence, I bring more to the table than most of my competition. I know how to combine direct response marketing principles with technology to develop online marketing strategies that get results.

3. Provide real value.

With your product or service you want them to say, “Wow, this was worth much more than what I paid.” (But if they are saying that too much, you may want to adjust your pricing accordingly.) There is a direct connection between price and perceived value in our society.

An attorney who charges $400 an hour is usually perceived as much better than one who charges only $35 an hour. You can also charge too much, and price yourself out of the market.

One rule of thumb I have used and other people have used with success is to raise your price until there is some market resistance. Although, some people will think you are overpriced regardless of what you charge for your products or services. The key to overcoming price objections is to provide real value to your customers.

You are not necessarily in a price driven marketplace. The number one thing most people look for is value. Understand the value of your product or service, and clearly communicate that value.

4. Never differentiate on price.

You can never win when you are competing on price. Set your price and stick with it. I cannot think of a single time lowering my price resulted in anything good. It usually results in having clients who are never satisfied with anything you do because even when you lower your price, they still think they are paying too much (and complain a lot)

Let these clients go to your competition. They are not worth the effort. Some people are just cheap and don’t want to pay any price. You want the people who are looking for real value, recognize the value in what you have to offer, and respect what you do. These are your best clients. Let the others move on to your competition.

5. Never differentiate on what is already expected.

People expect good customer service. They expect to be treated like family. So don’t tell everyone you give good customer service. That is what most businesses promote and what everyone expects. Don’t market your product or service based on the obvious. Dig a little deeper to find the true differentiating factors for you and your business. Don’t use

6. Discover your unique why.

Why are you in this business? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning to make something happen in your business? If you do not have a strong and clear why, then you will probably quit when times get rough.

And most businesses will go through tough times. You can plan and come up with a worse case scenario for your business from now to eternity, but when you actually start your business, life will happen and a wrench will get thrown into the process when you least expect it. Everyone has their own unique why. By identifying yours, you will separate yourself, your business, and your services from the rest of the pack.

7. Have a great story.

When most people think of a brand, they think of the Mercedes Benz emblem, the golden arches of McDonald’s, the Nike® swoosh or some other logo. This is definitely a part of your brand creation, but it is not your brand.

Your attitude, response to customer needs, and the way you dress can also be part of your brand. We are all born with a brand. A brand can be something as simple as a baby’s cry. What do you think of when you hear a baby crying? That is what a brand does. It evokes an emotion and clearly identifies you and your product in a specific way.

Your story is the strongest part of your brand. Most people know that Michael Dell started building computers in his college dorm room, and now he’s worth billions. Jeff Bezos wrote the business plan for Amazon in the backseat of a car while his wife drove them to Silicon Valley to get venture capital to fund his idea. The rest is history.

What is a common question many people ask when they find out what you do? They ask, “How did you get into this?” This is a great opportunity to brand and differentiate yourself by telling your unique story. Do you have an interesting story as to how and why you got into the business you are in? How did you get started? People remember stories, and they will remember your story if you make it interesting.

8. Position yourself and your services.

This is basically what you do in the mind of your prospect. Years ago Volvo positioned themselves under the moniker of safety. Remember the commercials where they drove the Volvo off the side of the building? When Domino’s Pizza started, their USP (unique selling proposition) was “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free” to position their product in the crowded pizza market. De Beers has the slogan “A diamond is forever.” The slogan for Subway® is “Eat Fresh” letting people know their sandwiches are always fresh and freshly prepared positioning themselves as more healthy than regular fast food. Home Depot® commercials end with “More saving. More doing.” They are highlighting the savings found in their store aisles and targeting consumers’ growing do-it-yourself mentality. How are you positioned in the marketplace?

9. Become an expert.

Be the “go to” person for whatever product or service you are selling. Be the leader in your field. Educate yourself and dedicate yourself to the pursuit of mastery in your chosen field. One way to become an expert is by reading 12 books a year on topics related to your business. Do whatever you have to do to be the person to turn to when they need your product or service. Another way to become the expert is by sharing your knowledge and teaching other people what you know. Sending a monthly newsletter, blogging, creating videos, writing a book, and interviewing experts on a podcast are excellent ways to showcase your knowledge and to become known as the expert. Speaking to local groups and associations is another way to position yourself as the expert.

And never fall into the “I already know that” trap. Get out of the habit of saying: “I already know that.” Replace it with: “Oh, that’s interesting.” I have read an entire book that contained ideas I had already heard or read elsewhere, but then towards the end of the book I found one idea or sentence that had a tremendous impact on my business. Never discount knowledge. Always pursue information and people who can help you. Never stop learning. Stay curious!

10. Clearly identify the benefits of using your product or service and the transformation.

Don’t confuse benefits with features. Features are the technical aspects of your product or service. Benefits answer the question “What’s in it for me?” For example, a feature of a car may be: it is a convertible and the top goes down. The benefit would be that you are going to look really cool driving around town with the top down. It is the emotional connection that makes people buy.

Make sure you can articulate what will be different in the customer or client’s life or business as a result of these benefits. The main thing clients want to know is how their life will be different.

They want to know the transformation that will take place. Every decision people make is emotional. Uncover their emotional triggers and identify the transformation they experience as a result of working with you. Clearly communicate the emotional connection for your customer with your product or service, and you will get great results from your marketing.

These 10 rules will help you start to differentiate yourself and your business from the competition. Here is the bottom line on differentiation: the more unique and different you are, the more you can charge. Spend some quality time on this to find what makes you different from your competition. Communicate this to your prospects and clients. Start using your uniqueness to your advantage.

All the best,

Mike Coleman